Unlikely Competitors… Part II

marketing plan

“So… who is our biggest competitor?”

That was the question I asked my team twenty-something years ago. And the answers flowed freely… naming every other staffing company of merit within a two hour radius of our office.

But were they really competing with us? Were we competing with them?

My answer was no.

In fact, as I mentioned yesterday, we developed good working relationships with some of them, and even better relationships with others.

Meanwhile, the very companies we set out to serve became the true competitors for the services we offered.

Please allow me to explain.


Regarding the other staffing companies… my employees viewed them as competition for two reasons:

1) They were listed in the same category as us in the Yellow Page Directory, and

2) I had not taken the time to properly coach and train them.

You see, as small businesses, and particularly service businesses, the answer can be surprising. Many often view every other similar service as their competition.

They do this because they have not tightly defined their market… their niche. In wanting to serve everybody, they perceive anyone in a remotely related business to be a threat. This has at least three drawbacks:

1) They never establish themselves as the dominant, go-to player in any particular service area.

2) They tend to slug it out with the masses of others who haven’t clearly defined themselves; scrapping for any available business, and cutting each other’s margins to the bone.

3) They miss important opportunities to create valuable long-term relationships with other industry professionals.

When we became laser-focused on being the very best at one thing, we dominated that space… and only later did we use that position and influence to dominate other verticals as well.


On the other hand, the companies that we were out to serve often became unlikely… and unintentional… competitors. Over the years, I have seen this issue challenge many service businesses.

To highlight… at that time, we were competing on two levels:

1) For the services of the talented men and women who were looking to make a permanent job or career change, and

2) For the right to provide for and fulfill the HR requirements of the (potential) client company.

You see, it wasn’t just staffing companies that competed with us for the market’s available talent pool. Every single employer in the state was competing for those same people.

And the same is true for each of us today. If an extremely talented, A-team player goes elsewhere, you lose the potential to have them play for you.

Further, it wasn’t just the other staffing companies who were competing to hire for our (potential) client companies… it was the client companies themselves.

They had systems, and routines, and a history of doing it themselves. Yes… it turned out that our biggest competitors were the people within that organization who were already doing it. They already had the job.

We needed to account for that… and so do you.

While our marketing plan must certainly address the competitive landscape… as small business owners and service professionals we must understand and work with the powerful competitive forces that exist within the very walls of our prospect’s business.



Have you ever lost an account because a company simply decided ‘not to change’ the way they were doing whatever it is that you proposed?

How would you personally handle that interaction, that proposal, or those objections, in the future?

Are you confident that every member of your team would handle it the same way?


I look forward to speaking with you.


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